Human rights defenders are at the forefront of protecting our rights and our shared planet. They are also vital in helping businesses identify and manage risks to people in their operations and value chains. Yet increasingly, defenders face threats and violence in the course of doing their work. Since 2015, the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre has tracked nearly 2,300 attacks against defenders focused on business-related activities.
As attacks against human rights defenders continue to mount globally and the COVID-19 pandemic places defenders and the civic freedoms that enable their work in even greater jeopardy, the role of companies and their investors in protecting human rights is coming under increasing scrutiny.
Investors’ Guide to Corporate Accountability and Transparency
Economic growth and foreign investment can have a positive impact by bringing jobs, development, and improvements to social welfare. But when businesses are able to act with impunity, they undermine these benefits and can cause serious human rights and environmental violations. For this reason, countries are joining together to creating binding obligations for corporations abroad, to ensure that development and investment do not benefit business at the expense of local communities and the environment.
Civil society organizations have declared that they will not accept looser assessment or monitoring requirements, and have demanded more inclusive stakeholder engagement, among other pending issues. To achieve this and to truly safeguard human rights and the environment, the World Bank must provide a written commitment in its policies beyond its discretionary approach to “monitor the monitoring” of its borrowers.
Investors should undertake rigorous due diligence. They should review companies’ history of SLAPPs and avoid investment in companies with a track record of SLAPPs; and communicate that they expect investee companies will not bring lawsuits with the intention of silencing critics, continuously monitor their use, and act consistently on their findings. They should also encourage companies not to be part of organisations that target or otherwise undermine civil society organisations and individual defenders.